While the power of positive thinking—a popular if fuzzily defined lifestyle credo coined by author Norman Vincent Peale—is a familiar idea to most Americans, the slogan (if not the concept) is largely unknown in the Middle East. In its Mitchell-Innes & Nash debut, the eight-member Arab artist “delegation” GCC (an allusion to the Gulf Cooperation Council) focuses on the growth of Cali-style personal realization in its part of the world—and what may get lost in translation. It’s an intriguing subject, but while this exhibition expands on a previous project for the most recent Berlin Biennale, it still barely scrapes the surface.
The show’s centerpiece is a sculpture of a mother and child performing Quantum-Touch therapy. They stand on a mound of sand inside a circular running track, and their ritual is accompanied by a dreamy spoken narrative. According to the artists, such practices have been adapted by the political elite in the Middle East for ideological ends. On the surrounding walls, flocked plastic reliefs reproduce online images of locally influential figures promoting “positive energy” as a basis for policy. GCC’s exhibition portrays how one culture can co-opt the value system of another in ways that skew the original meaning. It’s a fascinating observation but one the group struggles to convey visually.